Fisker Karmas Catch Fire After Being Submerged By Sandy

By · October 31, 2012

Fisker Karma

As the Eastern United States began to survey the damage left by Superstorm Sandy yesterday evening, reports emerged that 16 Fisker Karmas had been destroyed in the storm. Jalopnik has pictures of the burned-out vehicles, most of which are virtually unrecognizable.

The cars were parked in Port Newark, New Jersey, which experienced flash flooding, and it’s believed that they were damaged after being partially submerged in salty sea water, possibly causing a short.

Today, Fisker released a short statement:

“It was reported today that several Fisker Karmas were damaged by fire at the Port of Newark after being submerged in sea water during Superstorm Sandy. We can report that there were no injuries and none of the cars were being charged at the time.

"We have confidence in the Fisker Karma and safety is our primary concern. While we intend to find the cause as quickly as possible, storm damage has restricted access to the port.

"We will issue a further statement once the root cause has been determined.”

History of Quality Concerns for Fisker

This latest incident isn’t the first report of a Fisker Karma catching fire. In August, Fisker issued a recall of the Karma to replace a flawed cooling fan that was implicated in a vehicle fire outside of a California grocery store. In May, a Karma was involved in a fire that destroyed a home and two other vehicles in Fort Bend County, Texas. Those two incidents came month after Fisker completed another recall due to fire dangers stemming from a design flaw in its battery packs, which are supplied by now-defunct battery maker A123 Systems.

Though the Port Newark fires haven’t yet been investigated, it’s difficult not to speculate that the problem could again be blamed on design flaws within the Karma. There have been no other reports of electric vehicles catching on fire during the massive superstorm that caused flooding throughout the New York City area, and we know that other electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF have undergone extensive water testing to ensure that their battery packs are sufficiently waterproof.

For Fisker, the news overshadows a successful $100 million round of fundraising and forthcoming announcements about its next planned vehicle, the Atlantic, which has faced substantial delays and doesn’t yet have a manufacturing site. At the very soonest, the Atlantic is now scheduled for production in late 2014, though Fisker likely still has a lot of money left to raise if that is to happen.


· Spec (not verified) · 5 years ago

After seeing the pictures . . . . well Fisker is in trouble. It is just Fiskers that burned, no other cars and no other buildings. Those cars are too hot for this world.

· · 5 years ago

With gasoline car the voltage is only 12 volts but in a battery car i guess the voltage is around 300 volts or more. Maybe the water found a way to the battery circuitry and that doesn't have breakers or fuses. This brand is not lucky. It will be good to test all battery cars and suvs to find if water can cause problems. Probably a hydrogen fuelcell is less risky then a battery car because the fuelcell has no voltage in it when it is not used but hydrogen fuelcell cars have big battery too. The future look more complicated suddently and maybe some peoples will wreak havoc on battery electric cars.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago


Here I'll agree with you man, gasoline powered cars don't explode when they get wet, and hydrogen powered cars won't either, unless they're made by Fisker. The Hindenburg caught fire due to the Boron - Aluminum- Oxide skin. If it had been a helium blimp the result would have been the same. The Zepulin (sp?) company investigated and found the truth since they reduced the amount in subsequent skins and also improved the conductivity between panels to reduce sparking. This is similar to the solid rocket boosters Nasa uses for fuel.

Of course, besides the Fisker, EV's don't catch fire either when they get wet. I test drove this prize automobile a few months ago, and they hadn't even addressed the relatively simple 'cogging' problem at slow speeds. This is unacceptable in a 120K car.
The other fire in a Fisker this year was due to apparently no one at Fisker knew what a fuse was for their electric radiator fan.

Other people will say its due to salt water on old fashioned top post (100 year old) batteries, and that GM's side posts should be brought back. These side post batteries have caused so many unnecessary connection problems that I sayg 'good riddance' and am glad they're gone for good. 12 volts @ several inch spacing won't cause a problem

The proof is in all the non-G M gas powered cars that did not catch fire.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 5 years ago

sorry, new puter. the last post and this post were by 'me'.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

You can see some of the water torture tests that Nissan LEAF was put through in the video here:

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

I see a fire sale in the near future....

· · 5 years ago

The Leaf is safe in or around water. I charge my Leaf outside, I have run through water and storms, charged my Leaf in storms. I feel perfectly safe in it. It probably will wade through water better then a gas car. Does not need air and a gas car needs electricity to run also and can short out. I noticed all the plugs related to the Leaf look water tight in a big way.

· · 5 years ago

Just out Leaf sales for October up 86% 1,579 units.

· · 5 years ago

During the tsunami in Japan there were hundreds of gas cars that caught on fire. I remember seeing pictures of dozens of Infinity sedans all burned up. They were sitting in the parking lot awaiting shipping when the tsunami hit. This can happen during such a stressful event regardless of whether the car is gas or electric. It's a disaster zone here in NJ.

· · 5 years ago

Hi Tom,
How have you fared the weather? Are your home, restaurant, and BMW ok?
Is your power back? I guess you're not waiting in line for 3 hours for gas at least.

· · 5 years ago

@spec: no, actually, a bunch of Toyotas burned at the same port.

Eighty houses burned in Queens, for that matter.

I'd recommend not parking either your car, or your house, in the Atlantic ocean.

· · 5 years ago

@Tom Moloughney: indeed, salt water is far more dangerous than fresh, in this case (cars, houses, etc). The resistivity / conductivity of water is hugely influenced by what's dissolved in it, and the corrosive effect of salt water is far higher than that of fresh (ask anyone who's sailed in both fresh and salt water).

Incidentally, as a kid, I used to do things like start the fireplace with a bit of steel wool and a single small battery (can't remember if I was using 9 volts or AAs, 9 volts are obviously more convenient since both terminals are on at one end). Fire is easy to create with any high quality energy source and a little imagination...

· · 5 years ago

@Bill Howland: I'm still told that the "cogging" thing is software and that they have a software fix for it. Of course they said that quite a while ago, but they swear the fix is coming out now. We'll see...

· · 5 years ago

@Chris T.

This and the related motorboating problem (thankfully, I didn't notice any of THAT since that would definitely cause accidents) are control/feedback problems. They should have gotten that kind of bugaboo out at the test bench, if not the drawing board.

I really don't see how they're going to recover from this one. Maybe if the Edsal jokes start, that will be the beginning of the end.

I can only speak for my Volt and Tesla, and while there a minor annoyances, its nothing to what Fisker owners must be thinking right now.

· · 5 years ago

Man, Fisker just can't help keeping out of the news for all the wrong reasons! What I hope to see, instead, is success stories regarding EVs in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, such as folks who managed to run their houses off their car's battery bank and/or recharging with home solar PV panels, while waiting for the power to come back on. I'm sure at least a few of those incidents are occurring.

Glad to hear You're doing well, Tom.

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead,

Both of our friends who were involved with this article are clearly too modest so I'll provide this:

· · 5 years ago

Thanks for posting the link ex. I haven't been around here much because I have limited internet access. It's a disaster area here. Some are starting to get power back, but it's slow going because of the level of destruction in some areas.
My home is in a particularly bad hit area. It still looks like somebody dropped a bomb, and it's five days later. I do have a generator that powers my whole home (natural gas) so I'm OK and can charge my car fine. I can't imagine when we'll get power back from the utility though. My whole block has at least 30% of the telephone poles snapped and laying in the road tangled in downed trees. 13 trees fell on my property but luckily none hit my house. I have neighbors that don't have heat, power or water staying at my house. I had to cut my way to main roads on Tuesday morning with my neighbors and chainsaws or the town would never get to us. It's really nuts.
The crazy thing is my restaurant didn't lose power although all around it did. It's bizarre how the grid works like a jigsaw puzzle. People with LEAF's and Volts are coming by to charge up on my chargers all the time. The gas lines are crazy and sometimes a mile long. Most stations have no power so they can't pump even thought they have gas and the few open run out in a couple hours. There are police stationed at every gas station to control the crowds, it's a good time to drive an EV!
I'll check back when I have internet access again and time to post.

· · 5 years ago

Tom. I hear some cities in NJ the cops are out giving people parking tickets. That is when the streets are blocked, basements are full of water because of no sump pump / or sewer service, no water pressure, no lights, no heat. (!!!!) So what else is new.. I guess you have to go to north carolina to find considerate cops. They are ticket-happy here too.

· · 5 years ago

@Bill Howland: considerate vs inconsiderate is not a geographical issue. I've run into both kinds pretty much everywhere.

Many years ago when I lived in the greater DC area I got caught in one of the infrequent "large" snowstorms (roughly a foot of snow, no big deal here in Utah but just one inch will paralyze DC :-) ) and had to park off the side of a street just like approximately 40 million other vehicles. The next morning when I trudged out through the snow to the car, there were parking tickets on every single vehicle. Luckily my ticket had the right plate number but the wrong state, so I could just ignore it....

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

Thanks for your help, it worked!

· · 5 years ago

You're welcome, Bill. I can finally see your photo. It would be nice if more of our regulars shared an image of themselves or their cars here.

Great NYT story by Brad regarding Tom's story. Thanks for the link, ex-EV1. One of the side stories I've been hearing this week concerns gasoline stations in the NY and NJ area that have fuel to spare, but no electricity to make their pumps work. I'll be interested to see what sort of infrastructure improvements we'll be witnessing in the northeast US following the big cleanup.

· · 5 years ago

@Benjamin Nead

Re Infrastructure, I would guess not much...But in retrospect it looks like that huge storm water resevoir that cost millions in NYC to build underground turned out to be worth it. Ill have to check how full it got, especially since there's another Nor'easter coming soon.

· · 5 years ago

hummmm just checked the "Secrets of NY Sewers", looks like it wont be fully completed until 2020. So maybe that's why they had all that flooding since the system isn't operational yet. Any NYers here with better info? Im 350 miles northwest

· · 5 years ago

Fisker apparently has more problems. Although the 16 are in the photo, apparently 300 were ruined.. $35 mil is a hefty bill, interesting to see what their terms are with their insurance company.
Understood that Toyota lost 4500 but look at the proportionate sales of the two companies.. This was a significan percentage of the Fiskers on the Road, and nothing for Toyota.

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